Fortunately for me, for the last couple of years the yapping has subsided, and usually I can end any conversation by simply saying, "Big Red Imports." Yet now, instead of having to explain why Bob Stoops "owns" Mack Brown, I'm goaded into explaining to my OU brethren why Texas plays such a weak non-conference football schedule. And this time of year – when football season can barely be seen on the horizon – "quality of schedule" is a hot topic.
And frankly, I'm not completely sure what position to take.
Yes, I enjoyed Texas' two-year set with Ohio State. No, it did Texas no good to lose to the Buckeyes last season. Yes, it's nice to play Arkansas. No, it does you no good to have the Hogs come into your backyard and whip you soundly, which happened in recent history. Yes, it's important to play big-name schools like UCLA in non-conference. Anybody remember Rout 66?
Since I'm torn on the subject, I've decided there is only one truly logical thing to do.
Blame the NCAA.
In the non-playoff college football world that we inhabit, it makes no sense to play Ohio State when you can play Arkansas State in front of the same capacity crowd without having to worry about the outcome. Hypothetically, if Texas plays Ohio State and loses and Oklahoma plays North Texas and wins, the Sooners will likely jump ahead of the Longhorns in the rankings.
Is that fair? Of course not. Does that make sense? Absolutely not. Do you have to schedule wins to have a shot at a national championship? Without question.
Not only should we blame the NCAA for the way it crowns the national champion, but conference championship games must be considered by each school's scheduler. If you are in the Southeastern Conference or the Big 12, you go into each season knowing that there are about a half-dozen games on your schedule that you could lose, and that's not including a potential conference championship game.
Yes, a half-dozen. Look at Texas' 2007 schedule. You probably think I'm crazy, but realistically, the Longhorns could lose six games: TCU, OU, Nebraska, at Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and at A&M. Yes, Texas will be favored in most, if not all, of those games, injuries and unforeseen in-season circumstances notwithstanding. And they could just as easily win all six as lose them.
TCU is good and loves to beat Big 12 teams (right, Coach Stoops?).
Oklahoma can always beat Texas.
Nebraska will be breaking in a new quarterback, but Nebraska is still Nebraska.
Oklahoma State can beat anybody in Stillwater.
Texas Tech is due for a win against Texas.
A&M did it in Austin in 2006, so they certainly can win again in College Station.
Did you think Texas would lose to Kansas State last year? Didn't think so. The truth is, just about anybody can beat just about anybody, so you've got to schedule some teams you KNOW you can beat. Wanna play Boise State? Didn't think so.
Knowing this – and knowing that there could be undefeated Pac 10 or Big 10 teams who don't have to play a conference title game - do you really think the Longhorns should schedule Georgia instead of Rice? No, they shouldn't. And if there was a playoff system in place, they wouldn't have to.
Besides, Rice tastes good with my chicken.
*As I watched Daniel Gibson torch the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals, I could not get this thought from my head: Where did this come from? I hoped for this kind of production when the highly-touted Gibson was wearing burnt orange, and thought he was making a tremendous mistake leaving school early for the NBA draft.
Turns out "Booby" was right, and I was wrong. And how did he keep his childhood nickname of "Booby" under wraps while here at Texas? Evidently "Got Booby" t-shirts are all the rage now in Cleveland.
*I heard a rumor that Texas' baseball team lost in the regionals. I didn't go to the games, but expected to see them on television. Wrong. I assume I'm not the only one miffed that Texas' games weren't televised in the Austin area. At the risk of sounding like an old curmudgeon, something's wrong with our society when we can find re-runs of Dawg the Bounty Hunter on television, yet can't find a Texas baseball game.
Then again, considering how things turned out, Dawg may have been a better option.
-- Mike Blackwell
by Clendon Ross
Inside Texas Publisher
June 6, 2007
Ya know, I originally considered writing about the disappointing overall year in Longhorn sports, or the specific struggles that led to the baseball team's second-straight early exit from the NCAA Tournament, but honestly, I'm just not in the mood for that negativity. Instead, I'm going to relive a few glorious moments from the 2005 national title run, brought to us by members of this year's team.
Going back and re-reading our coverage of the 2005 regional, super regional and College World Series, the names of '07 Horns Chance Wheeless, Adrian Alaniz, Nick Peoples and Randy Boone were prominent.
One of my all-time favorite Texas baseball moments, and perhaps one of the most improbable, came courtesy of Wheeless in Omaha, when the then-sophomore first baseman, playing with a dislocated shoulder popping out of socket almost literally with every swing of the bat, stepped to the plate in the bottom of the ninth vs. Baylor and, after an ugly (and painful) swing and a miss on the first pitch, launched the game-winning, walk-off homer that sent the Horns to the CWS finals. Wheeless also went yard in the title-clinching game vs. Florida.
Then-freshman Alaniz opened in Omaha with a win over Baylor and then got the call for the title series opener with Florida, another 'W', but he and the Horns may not have made it to Rosenblatt without his clutch performances in elimination games vs. Arkansas in Austin and Mississippi in Oxford.
Then-sophomore Peoples turned in an all-time highlight reel snag vs. Tulane in Omaha with a dead sprint to the right center field gap followed by a leaping grab at the top of the wall, robbing the Green Wave of a sure extra base hit and the beginnings of a possible late inning comeback. And, as with Alaniz, Texas may not have made it out of the loser's bracket in Austin if not for another outstanding defensive effort from Peoples, a diving catch in the regional-clinching game vs. Arkansas that Taylor Teagarden described as "the turning point in the game."
Then-sophomore Boone picked up a win, and as importantly, ate 6-1/3 innings in the first elimination game win over Arkansas for the Horns, setting up the staff for the regional-clincher the next day. Boone made a scoreless relief appearance in the CWS final game vs. Florida.
Each of these guys (all seniors but Alaniz) had their struggles in Round Rock, but they were instrumental in bringing a sixth national title to Texas just two years ago. And I'm thankful for those great memories.
One other note: I was struck by how big a role Kenn Kasparek played in the Horns' '05 title run. Texas came out of the loser's bracket in Austin, beating Miami (Ohio) and Arkansas twice after losing to the Hogs in the second game of the regional, with Kasparek starting the clinching game and giving up just one earned run. He also pitched in relief in the clinching game in Oxford, and started and put the Horns in position for the win over Baylor on Wheeless's heroics with 6-1/3 strong innings. In other words, his presence was certainly missed in 2007, and he should be a key component of the '08 staff's success.